How to Dance the Merengue
The merengue originated in the Dominican Republic and was announced as the official music and dance of the republic by Rafael Trujillo who was president off and on for 18 years. Merengue has been around long before it was given such status in the Dominican Republic.
Dominicans arrived in the U. S. long before that time, but in the 60s, the vast majority of Dominicans living in New York wanted to connect with their missed culture. They created quartets and bands to play local clubs. Traditional merengue music has evolved and changed since its original form and is now fused and mixed with other genres of music.
The dance hasn’t evolved as much as the music. It’s done in a few different styles, but the basics are the same world-wide. If you’ve been anxious to learn this dance style because of a planned trip to the Dominican Republic or because it appears to be such a beautiful and sensuous dance, now is the time to learn.
The partners hold each other in a closed position dance hold. The leader holds their partner around the waist, and the partner places an arm around the leader’s shoulder. Their bodies are never more than a foot apart.
The follower starts on their right foot, the leader starts on their left foot, so they start from the same side. The movements begin by the partners marching in place bending their knees to get the hips moving and shifting in time with the music. It’s a four step dance move that doesn’t require large hip movements or gyrations.
The merengue is about slow, sensual movements while moving the hips and traveling the dance floor. The leader can move the couple around the dance floor in a slow circle together or left and right around the dance floor until it’s time for turning.
The partner moves the hand from around the leader’s neck to holding his hand. With both hands held, the leader will indicate which way the partner should turn by releasing one hand and slowly starting the spin. The partner can turn into or away from the leader then return to the original position.
The two-handed turn is much the same. The leader will indicate direction but won’t release his partner’s hands. She will spin once to face him then reverse to the position in which she started. The man has the option of spinning himself to return the arms to the original position too.
This is the basic merengue. Other variations are possible as the dancers become more practiced. It’s all about hip movements and the partner following the leader’s moves.